From the tropical terrains of the Indian subcontinent comes the next big thing for the meat substitute market. It sounds sensible for a country that is obsessed with choosing between the right and the righteous. The western kitchen is obliged by the wondrous orb that is called jackfruit.
An Indian staple, this fruit is eaten in general at its ripe stage around the world. However, in few parts of Asia the raw form is cooked with intense tropical spices. The resulting dish resembles pulled pork preparations and the taste is strikingly similar too.
The food and beverage industry finds this zeitgeist too convenient to be built up among its traditionally non-vegetarian class of consumers. The Jackfruit Company and Upton’s Natural have already banked upon this opportunity and released exclusive line of products for meat replacement.
At present, soybeans and jackfruit form the topmost trends in the meat substitute market. Food experts use soybeans to derive tofu, tempeh, and seitan, while wheat gluten to obtain texturized vegetable protein (TVP). (this seems incorrect regarding seitan, the definition of which is 'wheat gluten'- see 'Comments' below. Ed)
Mushrooms, eggplants, lentils, beans, and legumes are used to develop courses that target the texture of different types of meat. On the other hand, cauliflower and potatoes are vegetables that bear no resemblance in texture or taste whatsoever.
Yet, they are used invariably to replicate the vegetarian version of most appealing meat-based snacks such as burgers, wraps, steaks, and buffalo wings. Far from imagination, even nuts can bring enough meaty goodness to these dishes and apparently, be made to melt such as cheese. The industry, right now, is aiming for completely vegetarian meals that suit the vegan preferences.
In the past couple of years, the western population has reportedly cut back on its direct meat consumption by one-fourth the previous volume. The reasons behind this major drift in platter items are plenty. To begin with, there have been multiple apprehensions raised regarding the side effects of heavy meat intake in regular diet. These issues mainly concern the excessive saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol content that lead to health problems in the long run.
The cardiovascular and neurovascular dysfunction are definitively associated with high cholesterol and sodium levels in the diet. Purportedly, the processed meat has four times more sodium per ounce as opposed to unprocessed meat. The advised quantity for adults range from 1500–2300 milligrams daily. People with intake higher than the prescribed amount tend to fall under high risks of hypertension and cardiac dysfunctions.
A suggested approach by the healthcare experts to reduce the risk of critical diseases is a change in lifestyle and eating habits. Switching over to meat alternatives is taking the latter route to a healthier and guilt-free life. We say guilt-free because the meat substitute market sources its products from farm-grown plants rather than farm-bred animals. This tunes down the international voices raised against the unethical and inhuman killing of livestock for culinary pleasures. Promoters of vegan food reinstate that vegetative sources are enough for our nutritional needs. With several ingredients combined, the complete nutrient profile of meats can be recreated without much effort. What requires effort is the replication of the same texture.
A concentrated amount of thought and investment goes into the development of vegan meat. The attempts to subtly adjust to the changing socio-environmental scenario around the globe is not so subtle after all. There is intense research and development initiatives funded by federal and private agencies to alter the kitchen ingredients without having the consumer taste buds suffer for it.
Recently social networking sites went crazy with viral video of the “impossible burger.” According to the food joint that has included this in its menu, this patty “cooks, smells, and tastes” like meat. The makers boast of the environment-friendliness of their innovation and how no animals were harmed during the manufacture. The secret to their beefy patty is heme, or haem, is the ferrous ion cofactor that delivers meat its characteristic taste. It is an inherent component in plants and animals. The developers use this plant-derived heme as an ingredient to make the patties “bleed” a little when cooked rare. The research company that was finally successful in isolating heme ions independently has future to present an entire range of products for the meat substitute market.
Most of the meat substitutes known to the consumers harp on the health strings to build a unique selling point for their products. How good can these be if they are not directly sourced from plants. Heavy processing and a plethora of flavorants and additives do not improve their nutrient profiles when compared to that of their non-vegetarian counterparts.
For instance, the market has a good appetite for Quorn, that is sold over supermarket shelves in more than 16 countries as a high-protein and low-fat meat alternative. Under strategic market placement activity, it was advertised as a mushroom protein for a long time before the truth was unveiled. Its primary ingredient turned out to be mycoprotein, which is the processed version of the fungus Fusarium venenatum. The additives that go into this substitute to makes its texture and profile “suitable” are not necessarily harmful. Yet, a great lot of consumers have reported allergic reactions and digestive disorders post consumption.
Processed food items, no matter how conveniently they fit into our daily lifestyle, cannot be termed the “healthier alternative.” Manufacturers understand this restraint, and now take innovative routes to achieve the same industry goals that are set for this decade. This is the opportunity for industry stakeholders to help themselves with a large portion of the “meaty” profit margins.